Fantasy Baseball: 7 Waiver Wire Pickups That Will Heat Up

Dan Kukla@@kooks13Correspondent IIIJuly 4, 2012

Fantasy Baseball: 7 Waiver Wire Pickups That Will Heat Up

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    The upcoming MLB trade deadline means the same thing for both fantasy baseball managers and real-life GMs; it's time to seriously ponder moves that will keep your team in contention through the dog days of August.

    Unlike their professional counterparts, however, fantasy managers aren't limited to trades. Impact bats and arms can routinely be found in the free-agent player pool.

    Here are seven players you must pick up before someone else does.

Wilin Rosario, C, Colorado Rockies

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    Wilin Rosario will never be considered an elite MLB catcher until he vastly improves his defense.

    For fantasy purposes, however, he is already rising well into the top 10 at his position.

    Rosario hit a home run in each of his last three games (through Monday) and five in his last 10. He now totals 14 round trips this season.

    The power surge lifted the Colorado Rockies backstop to No. 6 on Yahoo!'s player rater at catcher. He sits well above name brands like Watt Wieters, Mike Napoli, Brian McCann, Alex Avila and Carlos Santana.

    You always need to be cautious of home-road splits with mile-high pickups, but Rosario's numbers actually severely tilt away from Denver. He is hitting .312/.341/.623 in road games and .206/.234/.480 at home.

    The Rockies just started a seven-game road trip on Monday. Rosario started it off with a homer.

    You know what to do.

    Yahoo! Ownership: 27 percent

    He's Better Than: J.P Arencibia (58 percent), Jesus Montero (68 percent), Alex Avila (60 percent)

Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Remember Neil Walker?

    He was a sneaky good fantasy player at the always-shallow second base position during his first two full MLB seasons. Many then backed him as a sleeper this spring.

    A horrible April and May, however, soon found him in Dumpsville.

    But Walker rounded back into form during June. He raised his batting average by 20 points and even flashed some speed with five stolen bases.

    In the last six games (through Monday), Walker hit 12-of-24 with three doubles, a homer and five walks. He scored nine times during that span and drove in seven runs.

    Walker's line now runs at .276/.342/.385, which is pretty on par with his career numbers.

    He strikes out a lot and is very streaky. Ride the hot streak now before this current power walk slows down.

    Yahoo! Ownership: 49 percent

    He's Better Than: Howard Kendrick (82 percent), Kyle Seager (66 percent), Dustin Ackley (54 percent)

Cody Ross, OF, Boston Red Sox

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    Cody Ross, the 2010 NLCS MVP, is showing that his October outburst in San Francisco was no flash in the pan.

    Known as "Smiles" during his high school days while playing for the Carlsbad Cavemen, Ross has his few fantasy owners grinning from ear to ear.

    He has slid up Boston's struggling batting order and now hits cleanup right behind David Ortiz. The spot comes with counting stat rewards. Injuries have limited Ross to only 182 at-bats this season, but he still boasts 34 runs and 35 RBI.

    Ross' production is powered by the long ball. The former Caveman swings a big stick and has clubbed 12 balls over the fence so far in his shortened season. But a .286/.362/.571 slash line plays in any league and shows that Ross contributes in more than one category.

    Happy days are ahead for Ross' owners. Bring some "Smiles" into your life and pick him up now.

    Yahoo! Ownership: 46 percent

    He's Better Than: Nick Swisher (84 percent), Corey Hart (87 percent), Alfonso Soriano (64 percent)

Jarrod Parker, SP, Oakland Athletics

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    Don't wait for July's annual crop of rookie call-ups. Jarrod Parker is a rookie starting pitcher you can pick up now, and he comes with a proven MLB track record.

    Parker touts a 2.46 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. Wins are hard to come by when pitching for Oakland, but so are runs allowed inside Parker's pitcher-friendly home park. Even so, the rookie has earned four wins in his last six starts.

    Outside of just two poor starts, Parker has kept opponents to two runs or fewer in every other trip to the mound this season. He gave up only one run in six of those starts and shut out his opponents three times.

    For what it's worth, both meltdowns came during interleague play. Some of his AL victims include the likes of Texas, Boston, Detroit, Toronto, Los Angeles and Chicago. That is not even close to a soft schedule. Parker can be trusted with any matchup.

    A higher strikeout rate would be nice, but Parker's consistency in putting up healthy ratios makes up for anything he lacks in the counting stats.

    It's not too late to add a solid arm to your rotation.

    Yahoo! Ownership: 50 percent

    He's Better Than: Wandy Rodriguez (70 percent), Ian Nova (73 percent), Jeremy Hellickson (73 percent)

Unowned Closers

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    Fantasy owners always seem to be scraping for saves. That is especially true in 2012, the "Year of the Blown Save."

    So why are three stud closers still available in half of Yahoo!'s leagues?

    Casey Janssen (2.64 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 9.1 K/9), Ryan Cook (1.54 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 9.5 K/9) and Tom Wilhelmsen (2.51 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 10.9 K/9) are all owned in at most 55 percent of Yahoo! leagues. All earn consistent saves, maintain low ratios and bring high strikeout rates.

    Being slow on Wilhelmsen is at least defensible because Brandon League looms. We saw League temporarily lose his job last season, only to quickly take it back later.

    But it's now been over a month since the switch happened and Wilhelmsen doesn't look like he will give up his new gig. In fact, he has yet to give up a run since taking over as Seattle's closer on May 26. He has seven saves and many more are on their way.

    Janssen carries the threat of a Sergio Santos return, but Santos still had no timetable as of June 27. If Santos ever does come back, there's no reason to reinstate him as closer. Janssen has only given three earned runs since April 26 while filling in.

    Cook is the best option of all three. The All-Star has some competition from Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes. But that is a competition Cook is clearly winning. He has only allowed earned runs in two games this entire season.

    You can either sit there baffled at how any of these three are possibly available or you can go do something about it.

    Yahoo! Ownerships: Cook (55 percent), Wilhelmsen (50 percent), Janssen (50 percent)

    They Are Better Than: Jose Valverde (92 percent), Alfredo Aceves (75 percent), Brett Myers (76 percent).